What to Do In Retirement – Life Doesn’t Stop At 65

Stay Active in Retirement

I often am inundated with questions like, “How do I prepare for retirement?” 

There are a number of books you can read, and websites you can visit – there’s a lot of advice out there about retirement – but it’s important to get real-life experiences. One of my colleagues wanted to communicate that information based on the real-life experience he had. He thought ultimately, the first-hand knowledge about what to do in retirement would help people who ask questions regarding retirement and retirement planning. 

Retirement is a process, and it’s one you have to prepare for and think about carefully. However, if you do it right, you’ll be starting a beautiful new chapter of your life that can lead to some of the best experiences you’ve ever had. It’s an opportunity for transformation, reinvention, and vitality in a way you maybe never got the chance to enjoy during your working years. And it’s yours for the taking. 

The Retirement Process

Do you know how to start the retirement process? Historically, people have looked at retirement like they’re running a race. When they reach the age of 65, they feel like they’ve crossed the finish line – and they’re retired. It’s that simple. However, it’s important to remember that the retirement process doesn’t have to start at 65. Often, it starts with preparing and planning to stay financially stable for the rest of a person’s life. Beyond that, while retirement doesn’t start at age 65 in regards to when someone should start planning, life doesn’t stop at age 65, either. 

You can’t just hang up your proverbial skates, walk away, and do whatever you want to do. If you don’t have a second stage of your life planned and other things you want to do, it’s easy to get stuck. It may seem counterintuitive, but you have to learn how to enjoy retirement. Many financial advisors have seen myriad examples of situations where people’s lives haven’t worked out the way they wanted. That’s what we try to avoid by educating people. 

Here’s a real-life situation for you to think about:

As David’s story goes, he met two brothers: One brother worked in the retail sales world from 9-9 every day. He showed up, worked hard, and he did everything he needed to do. When he thought about retirement, he thought it was as easy as crossing the finish line and just being done. He looked forward to sitting in his easy chair, pushing the buttons on his remote control, and getting beyond the daily grind of work. Ultimately, he ended up being in a wheelchair. He had a hip replacement, and he wasn’t able to do as many of the things he wanted to do. Unfortunately, this led him to pass away at a younger retirement age. 

The other brother was able to retire at a fairly young age, like his brother, he looked at things differently. He thought, “Oh no, retirement isn’t retirement for me in the traditional sense. It’s an opportunity for me to do the things I want to do.” He took the time to embrace vitality. He walked the dog every day, he focused on his health, he found reasons to get up in the morning and enjoy his life. He continued to live this life – and the life he wanted. 

Brother number two found joy in life and discovered that it started at 5 a.m. And he’s loving life in his 80s. 

Retirement Is Another Step In Life

I advocate for reinventing what was going to be your retirement – you should look at it as another step in life. Don’t let your spirit, your body, your mind, or your outlook on life wither and die. 

Find what you’re passionate about, discover what you didn’t have time to do during your working years and do it, learn new skills, become active, and truly embrace this time you have. It’s important to make sure you’re financially comfortable and you’re not worrying about how to pay for this lifestyle of your dreams. 

However, once you’ve got that under control and you’re comfortable, there’s no need to limit yourself. People tend to live longer when they’re enjoying the life they live and want to live it. How you stay active during retirement is up to you – but you need to do something.  

Worrying After Life After Retirement

We never know where life will take us. While it’s important not to spend too much time worrying, as stress takes years off a person’s life, you do need to have a solid retirement plan so you can embrace your golden years and live life on your own terms. Sometimes, people end up working during their retirement years because they have to, not because they choose to work. And sometimes, people end up looking at the life they have and wishing they had planned differently – but you can’t always plan for everything. 

However, to illustrate why it is important to think about where you want to be in retirement and set yourself up for success so you can enjoy the next phase of your life and the inherent freedom that retirement creates, let me tell you a story about Grammy. Grammy was an elderly woman who couldn’t have been over five feet tall – and she worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. During one of her work shifts, some teenage boys started playing with ketchup packets. They stomped them on the ground, splattered the ketchup all over each other’s shoes, and Grammy watched this whole situation happen.

Ultimately, after the teenagers left, she would be the one responsible for cleaning up their mess. And, after they left, she started cleaning the ketchup off the floor, sweeping and mopping until it was clean. I can’t say what happened to get Grammy to that point – but I don’t know that she had planned to spend her retirement years in such a way. 

Retirement Frees Up Time To Do The Things You’ve Always Wanted

For some people, retirement is a chance to be completely free from whatever they once did during their working years. If someone spent the last 30 or even 40 years doing hard labor, spending long hours at the office, or weekends working overtime, retirement might seem like a chance to slow down. And, if that’s the life you want for yourself, you can make that happen – but it’s important to keep yourself active and healthy while you do it. However, for some people, retirement looks significantly different. 

To them, retirement doesn’t mean not working, but it does mean changing the way they view work to only do what they feel like spending their time doing – and maybe it brings in a little money, too. But, as life goes on and your income needs change and you don’t need as much of a steady paycheck, you stop living to work and start working to live and working only as much as you need to make ends meet. 

The rest of the time you have is yours to live, and you should make the most of it. While retirement might not mean going to work in a traditional sense, you can find things to work on and become a lifelong learner. If you’re always interested in learning new skills, and curious about what’s next, you can keep your brain sharp in retirement and maybe find new ways to “work” in a non-traditional sense that keeps you happy and gives you a reason to keep going. 

You do not stop in retirement.

How to Continue Being Active During Your Retired Years

Life is full of fascinating people and experiences if you take the time to look and be open to the possibilities. I ran into a woman in an airport who was holding a sign that simply said, “Ask me.” 

I wanted to know where to go pick up my Uber, I had questions about a restaurant, and I wanted to buy a couple of magazines. So I asked her. She was very friendly, very helpful, and answered all of my questions. Chicago’s airport can be large and confusing if you don’t know where you’re going, so I was grateful for her help. Before we parted ways, I asked her why she chose to do this. She told me that she was retired from her career working in HR at a major Chicago firm. She knew the airport well, like the back of her hand, and she wanted to keep helping people. She volunteered her time and focused it on helping others in a place she knew well because it was a way to keep herself active in retirement. 

She wanted to make a difference, and I find that’s common among many people in the Baby Boomer generation. They want to make a difference, so retirement can be a great opportunity to combine that desire to help others and do something worthwhile that also allows you to keep your mind and body active.

There are plenty of ways to keep active during retirement, but it boils down to filling your time and your days with things you love and activities that feel worthy of your time, energy, and effort. 

Reinvent Yourself During Your Golden Years

Another way to get a new lease on life for the next chapter of your life is to reinvent yourself during your retirement years. This doesn’t mean doing anything drastic, necessarily, and you don’t need an entire personality shift just because you’ve retired. However, there are ways you can stay connected with the people in your community, do the things you enjoy, and get involved in a different capacity. Changes, both large and small, are a part of the transformative process during this phase of life. Retirement changes a lot for people: Your social circles may change or dwindle, you’ll meet new people, you’ll have new experiences, and you’ll hopefully gain a few vital skills as well. 

Consider this story of a man who decided to take a job working at a grocery store during his retirement. His situation was different than Grammy’s experience at McDonald’s. This man, who had previously served his community as a doctor for 30 years prior to retirement, so he knew many of the people in the area already. Some of them were probably his old patients, family members of patients, or just people he knew from being a central figure of the community. 

He chose to bag groceries because it gave him the chance to connect and reconnect with people, catch up on their lives, and stay involved. He was doing this job because he wanted to – and it made him happy to continue to foster those relationships in a different capacity during his retirement. He reinvented himself. 

Whatever you do with your retirement, approach it with a positive attitude. And, if you’re inspired to try to make a difference, find a way to make that part of your time. Whether you choose to volunteer at an airport, bag groceries at your local supermarket, work at a hospital, or find other charitable organizations to be a part of, there are plenty of ways to leave your mark on this world. If spend your time on activities and hobbies that leave you feeling happy and fulfilled, you’ll have a greater satisfaction in life and a happier – and hopefully longer – retirement. 

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